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Tokyo – Akihabara (Redux) March 20, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Akihabara (Redux)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Na

I have previously written about Akihabara and focused a lot on what is available in the area.  2 years ago, I moved to Kinshicho which is just a few stations away from Akihabara.  I have had a chance to learn more and more about Akihabara as well as understand the area in a different light.  In the past 2 years since my original post about Akihabara many things have changed, yet many things have remained the same.  It is still a mecca for geeks and electronics lovers everywhere and it continues to evolve with time.

Akihabara will always be a mecca for geeks, even though the current mayor of the district is trying to push them out.  There are several new large buildings that focus more on businesses, but a lot of the side streets are still filled with great little shops to “get your geek on”.  A lot of the really old shops that added character to Akihabara have closed down and new larger versions have recently popped up.  While the character of Akihabara is modernizing, it is modernizing in a good way for tourists now.  A lot of the new buildings are occupied by various larger model and anime shops.  The older buildings were a bit of a hazard due to their age and lack of upkeep which created a dingy look.  While the gentrification of Akihabara is continuing, in my opinion, the original culture is trying to fight on.  While many of the porn shops and shady cafes are gone, many of the original electronics and shops are consolidating into larger outlets.  Some of the large buildings with dozens of micro shops are rebuilding in smaller and taller buildings.  The variety of stores appears to be improving a bit and tourist friendly big box retailers are moving in slowly.  Like the stories in many manga or anime, the geeks may have been knocked down but they still try to maintain their own culture within Akihabara.

Akihabara is quickly becoming known for AKB48.  AKB48 is a huge all girl pop idol group that was born in 2005.  The founder of AKB48 wanted to create “an idol you can meet” situation when he created AKB48.  AKB48 stands for AKihaBara 48.  Originally, he envisioned 48 girls in the group.  At times, there were less than 48 but due to the popularity of the group it now stands at over 50.  The group has become so popular that they spawned sister groups across Japan as well as one group in Indonesia and another one being developed in Taiwan.  AKB48 is also one of the most recognized and top selling groups in Japan.  The group started off very humbly and in the past 3 years have exploded beyond their imaginations.  They are seen on TV at almost all hours of the day.  The most popular girls are on primetime TV while the B and C list tend to dominate late night TV with cutesy programs.  They tend to promote the fact that they are young, and at ages ranging from 13 to 29, they play the part very well.  In the beginning, many thought of the group as a type of soft kiddie porn due to the way they dance and dress.  Today, they are now part of Japanese pop culture and integral in how Japan is viewed from outside.  It is unlikely that they will go away soon and they will continue to expand.  From what started out as a single theatre has now grown to include a new venue where you can eat at their cafe, see their museum, buy fan items, and watch past concerts in a new small theatre.

Themes are a new trend in Akihabara.  A Gundam Cafe had opened since my last post about Akihabara.  It is a very popular cafe where fanatics of Gundam can enjoy a Gundam themed coffee.  In fact, all of the food and drinks come with a Gundam theme.  The cutlery, dishes, and even tables have Gundam themes.  When entering the washroom, you will be greeted by the most famous Gundam of all.  You don’t have to wait in line to enjoy the food as you can purchase some items at the store.  The store itself is pretty small with only a few, yet exclusive, items for sale.  While the Gundam Cafe itself is pretty popular, there are other theme attractions in Akihabara.  I mentioned that maid cafes are popular, and they continue to be so.  Maid cafes come in all shapes and sizes with various costumes.  If you aren’t happy with the French maid, or the Japanese style maid, you can always go to one where the girls dress in other costumes.  They are harder to find and just as expensive as a normal maid cafe but they tend to be very popular.

An often overlooked area of Akihabara, even by me, is the Kanda Myojin.  It is a very important shrine in Tokyo.  It is one of the 10 most important shrines in Tokyo.  They were selected by a past emperor of Japan and it is considered a small pilgrimage to visit all 10.  Kanda Myojin is one of the ten but it is a little off the beaten path.  It is located roughly an equal distance from Akihabara Station and Ochanomizu Station.  It is a little easier to reach from Akihabara but you must pass through a small residential and business district.  Most of Akihabara is centred on Chuo-dori and Kanda Myojin is about 5 minutes from Chuo-dori.  It is also easy to be lost on the way to Kanda Myojin but once you are there, you are rewarded with one of the nicer gems of the city.  Kanda Myojin is actually more well-known among locals as being a popular place for weddings.  It is a little expensive but compared to Meiji Jingu, nowhere near as expensive.  There are a few various sculptures in the area and it is worth a visit if you are living in Tokyo, but in reality, if you are pressed for time, don’t bother with it.  Just enjoy yourself in Akihabara and think about doing a pilgrimage in the future.

Akihabara continues to evolve with the atmosphere has changed only a little in the past 2 years.  It will take a lot more time to know whether or not the area will completely lose the atmosphere that once inhabited the area.  It is not the same as before but it isn’t completely different either.  You can still find almost everything you can imagine and the area is upgrading the buildings slowly.  The old run down stores that looked like they would crumble in a serious earthquake are, for the most part, gone.  They have been replaced by several new buildings that have been repopulated by shops that are similar to the original shops in the area.  It definitely feels cleaner but at the same time, some of the character of the old dingy shops is gone.  In fact, some of the small shops have probably closed for good due to the economy and the changes in Akihabara.  I doubt all of them will go away but I feel that things can never return to the technological and otaku heave it once was.

The Akihabara series continues with Akihabara – For the Civilized and Akihabara – For the Eccentric.

Tokyo – Kinshicho April 12, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Kinshicho” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Co

Kinshicho is the last major centre in Tokyo before you are in the suburbs, or heading towards Chiba.  It is located just a few minutes outside of Akihabara and one station away from Ryogoku.  The area itself is not very interesting for most travellers, but for those of you who use the Narita Express to enter or leave Tokyo, you will pass through Kinshicho.  When leaving Tokyo, just after you exit the tunnel, you will be in Kinshicho.  The area has a storied past and a growing future.  As any other part of Tokyo, Kinshicho is constantly changing and evolving.  What it will be like in 10 years is anyone’s guess, but the chances are that it will get much better.

The first thing to do in Kinshicho is to decide whether you want to go north or south.  Depending on what you want to see or do, each side will have its own purpose.  The south is considered the seedier side of Kinshicho.  In the south, you have two infamous things to do.  The first, less seedy, is the JRA (Japan Racing Association) building.  It is the easiest location to access in the east for horse race betting.  It’s not uncommon to see hundreds of men around the JRA building on a Friday evening, or even on Saturday and Sunday.  Horse race betting is still huge in Japan but not too many people talk about it.  It’s very common to see older men hanging out in front of the building just looking at the current horse races and deciding who to bet on.  I have never been inside the actual building but the betting process itself is pretty simple.  All you really have to do is go up to a computer terminal, select the horse you want to win and so on and that’s that.  Insert your money and you are done.  I’m not sure if there are English instructions as I’m not interested in the horse races but if you do walk around the outside, you can watch some of the races from a TV screen located in one of the lounges.  Note that you will find JRA buildings all over Tokyo and Japan but these are rarely where the races are held.  They are just betting offices with TVs set up for people to satisfy their gambling habits.  Racing happens near Shinagawa and out west from Tokyo.

The other seedy part to Kinshicho has to be the hostess clubs in the south.  Behind the JRA building will be several dozen clubs and bars.  Most of these are the cheaper cousins of their expensive Ginza and Kabukicho counterparts.  It’s still somewhat seedy during the day and the fact that there are several tall buildings obscuring the actual area makes it interesting.  Once you walk behind the JRA building at night, you’ll suddenly come upon several buildings with various lights flashing and men trying to push you into their clubs so that you can spend several tens of thousands of yen.  Nearby you can also find several love hotels that are more functional than fun.  Walking around in the area late at night may not be safe for everyone and it definitely isn’t as safe as Kabukicho.  There is a reason many people call Kinshicho the Kabukicho of the east and I would tend to agree for just this area alone.  The bad thing is that people tend to associate Kinshicho with these clubs and only these clubs these days.  When I talked about the storied past of Kinshicho, I was talking about these clubs in the south, but I was also referencing the fact that Kinshicho, botn north and south, was once a central area for the Yakuza, Japanese organized crime.  These days they are limited more to the southern areas.

While the south may sound like a bad area to visit, due to its reputation, the shops tend to be a lot cheaper.  You have a greater tendancy to find good cheap restaurants to eat in, cheap goods, and shopping tends to be more Japanese in flavour.  There is a small department store, small for Tokyo standards, and a small Yodobashi Camera.  Kinshicho has the usual set of small ramen and donburi shops as well as one of several Wallmart shops in Tokyo.  While they go under the name Seiyu, or as most people in Kinshicho say, Livin.  The company known as Seiyu is actually a wholely owned subsidiary of Wallmart.  It can be great as they offer the most competitive prices for their items and they also sell Wallmart goods.  It’s great to find really cheap food products when shopping there, but that isn’t always the case.  When shopping it is always true that if you visit one shop, they specialize in one type of food while another specializes in others.  It never hurts to shop around but it does take a lot more time to get things done.

The north side of Kinshicho has undergone a dramatic change over the last 5-10 years, or so I’ve been told.  In the past it was a Yakuza neighbourhood.  There would be several yakuza living in the area and the area was fairly “dangerous” to live in.  While I think it could be dangerous, as long as you keep to yourself in any such area, you should be okay.  In Japan, I don’t believe the organized crime is actually going to start shooting people randomly or have a gang war, but those were possibilities.  Today, things are very different.  The entire area has undergone some revitalization and a type of gentrification.  Many of the local businesses have put up signs saying that the Yakuza are no longer welcome in their shops and to leave the area.  Many of them seem to have relocated more towards the south and east and many of them have “left” their organizations.  In fact, as of the writing of this post, the police are cracking down on organized crime for various reasons which allow many areas to be revitalized.  The north area of Kinshicho is one of them.  One of the first major turning points in the north’s revitalization has to be the Olinas mall.  It is a larger western style shopping mall with lots of underground parking and various shops inside.  There is a theatre as well as a small food court as well.  The layout is a bit confusing to get around but it’s a nice place to do a bit of shopping, but for those looking for a Japanese style of life, this is not the place to go.  It is your typical western shopping mall teeming with teenagers.

One of the focal points of Kinshicho has to be Kinshi Park.  It’s a medium sized park for Tokyo that is currently undergoing renovations.  Renovations should be completed by the end of 2011, but this is just my own personal guess.  In the north east corner is the Sumida City Gymnasium.  It is a public community centre of sorts where you can do all kinds of sports.  You can play basketball, badminton, table tennis, go swimming, participate in aerobics, or even use a weight room.  The gym was completed in March 2010 and still looks very new.  The facilities are very cheap but you do need to share with the others who use it.  Next to the gym on the west side is a set of tennis courts.  If you have never practiced playing tennis in Tokyo, you will be in for a bit of a surprise.  They utilize a type of artificial turf and rubber pebbles to simulate grass.  Unlike typical artificial turf, this type seems to have a little flexibility and might be easier on your joints, but I haven’t personally tried it so I can’t comment too much on it.  It is still very popular and getting a chance to use it is still difficult.  In the south east corner of the park they are erecting a dual baseball field.  Basically it will be two baseball diamonds back to back that is designed for practice rather than real competition.  For real competition, I believe they will utilize just none of the diamonds at a time.  It’s an interesting design and it will be finished in early 2011.  As for the rest of the park, most of it is just open space with a bit of greenery.  I’m not sure how much will stay the same but the large open area is popular for young students to play in and for people to just relax on a nice spring afternoon.  If you need a little spiritual help, there is a small shrine located on the south west corner that provides a very unique look at Japan.

Aside from the park and Olinas, the other main anchor of the north has to be the Arcakit building and the Termina complex that surrounds the station.  The Arcakit main building has several floors of shopping including a large Daiso.  There are lots of things to see and do inside and it can be treated as its own shopping mall.  Be aware that there will be lots of families there as there is a famous baby shop where you can buy bulk items and almost anything you can imagine a child would want.  If you fancy a nice meal, I’d recommend the top floor of the building as the north facing shops have wonderful views of Tokyo Sky Tree which is nearly completed.  If the station area is not of much interest to you, you can always head just a little north into the small side streets.  This area has various little shops and restaurants of varying quality.  Some restaurants are very delicious and others are not so.  It can be hit or miss but it’s something that you have to try on your own. If you are interested in enjoying a little music, especially classical music, the Sumida Triphony Hall located in the Tobu Hotel is a very popular place.  Almost every weekend has a major concert and the halls are available for rent, at a price of course.  If that doesn’t interest you that much, they do have a shuttle bus that runs nearly daily and it can take you to Disneyland.

I think that Kinshicho itself will be undergoing a small change in the near future due to its proximity to Tokyo Sky Tree.  In order to cash in on the new attraction in the area, Kinshicho will have to do something.  While it’s difficult to cash in on it as Kinshicho is a little far from the tower itself, they will need to change a little in order to create a destination spot for domestic travellers.  I’m sure it could happen if the right people do the right things.  Removing some of the old and dirty shops is a start.  The small delicious shops will have to stay to retain the character of Kinshicho and some of the buildings will need a small renovation to make it more inviting to the casual shopper.  Like most areas, they need to find a niche that will attract people.  The north will continue to change with time as families and tourists start to take over.  Shop owners will be forced to change and the community will want to do something about it.  The south may not change much, if at all due to the character of the people and the lack of viewing locations of Tokyo Sky Tree.  Tokyo Sky Tree will be the major catalyst for the entire region, but it will still depend on the people and businesses in the area.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Eccentric) April 27, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Eccentric)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-nb

Akihabara is an area that is being transformed from a small centre with hundreds of small or tiny shops into a place that has tall buildings with large corporations controlling the area.  While it is true that things are changing, you can still see some of the craziness and the strangeness of this area if you know where to look.

For those wanting to see anime, anime figures, manga, and toys, heading to the northern area, near Suehirocho Station is your best bet.  There are several shops in the area that sell these goods.  There are also several located throughout the Akihabara area.  The most famous style of shop is the “glass” shop.  This shop can range in size.  It can be as small as a single room, to one occupying an entire building.  When you enter the shop, you will be met with various glass boxes.  Inside each box, there are various figures on display.  You can buy anything that is located within theses boxes, unless they are for display only.  The key is to find out which box the stuff you want is in, and ask one of the staff to help you.  The interesting part of this is that while you might think of this as a stand alone shop, it isn’t.  Each glass box is usually a different shop.  Many people will rent out one of the boxes to either display their goods, or to sell their goods.  It can range from internet companies needing a physical location for some of their items, to regular people wanting to make a few bucks with the stuff they have collected over the years.  It is a very different concept to the traditional shop that is common in almost every other area of the world.

Another thing to look for in Akihabara is the vending machines.  Due to the nature of the area, vending machines are very prevalent.  In every corner, on every street, you will be able to find a vending machine.  While this is also true of most areas of Tokyo, it is special in Akihabara.  They specialize in unique vending machines.  The standard machines that sell drinks of all types are, of course, common, but they also have machines that sell food.  You can buy hot noodles in a can.  These can be very popular, and it even comes with its own plastic fork.  You could also purchase Oden, which is various vegetables in a broth.  I would liken it to a stew, but it’s very different in taste.  Oden is typically found in convenience stores, but there are restaurants that specialize in it as well.  Meat is not typically found, aside from sausages.  While less common, spaghetti can be found, and it is very possible to find anime drinks.  These tend to be your average drink, but with an anime character on the cover.  Do be aware that prices can be jacked up, depending on where you are and what you buy.

Maids are an Akihabara specialty.  When you exit the station on the east side, and all along Chuo-dori, you are more than likely to run into several maids, especially on the weekend.  If you venture to the east side of Chuo-dori, you will find a lot of different maids looking to take you to their shop.  This is a relatively recent trend that has changed since I first visited.  When I first came, maid cafes were starting to become very popular.  You would see various Japanese women, sometimes European as well, dressed in a French style maid outfit.  They would almost cry to get you into their café.  It was all part of their act.  Today, you can find the strangest fetishes regarding maids.  The typical maid café charges a sitting fee on top of a mandatory drink.  One drink is usually good for about 1 hour.  This may change depending on the café.  You are then treated to a dose of acting from all of the maids in the café.  They tend to talk to you as if you are their master, at all times.  They act very cutesy and they play games with you.  Sometimes, there is a stage where they will play games with the entire café.  If you want to have a picture with one of the maids, or play a private game at your table, you will have to pay extra.  You can even buy one of the maid outfits if you really wanted to.  The man target for this is the men, not the women.  Today, they have added a plethora of different theme cafes.  This can range from a maid café where men dress as maids, but it’s relatively the same thing.  You can also see cafes where the girls are dressed more like a school girl, or even a moody school girl that will treat you like dirt, but cry and apologize when you leave.  I have seen various maid style cafes on TV, but I have never personally been to one.  I have seen their prices and can’t imagine entering one based on the prices.  If you really want to check it out, go ahead, but be sure you know how much it costs.  It could be as much as 4000 Yen for just one hour.  The safest place to visit a maid café might be on top of Don Quijote.

When I first came to Japan, Akihabara was only half as busy, but twice as strange.  In the last few years, the Mayor of Taito-ku, the name of the district Akihabara lies in, decided to clamp down on the strange people.  Several new buildings have popped up to act as an IT hub for Tokyo, and the police have done everything in their power to stop any performance that is done on the street.  While there is a good reason for this, they have decided that Akihabara’s original character of craziness has to go, and that it’s better to be a boring town like every other district of Tokyo.  On the weekends, you might be able to see a couple of “crazy” performers.  They tend to be men, and they tend to dress up as female anime characters.  Nowadays, they probably just walk around.  If they stop, the police will probably talk to them.  If they play loud music, the police will move them along.  If they dance to the music, the police will arrest them.  While this may seem strange and a little heavy handed, there is a main reason to this.  In the last couple years, some girls began to dress as maids, or other characters with a very short skirt; stand on a railing, and let people take pictures of them.  In essence, they let dirty men take photos up their skirts.  Thankfully, this has pretty much stopped, but the days when a tourist could walk along Chuo-dori, see someone dancing, take pictures, and say Tokyo is strange is long gone.  If you came to Akihabara looking for cheap electronics and hundreds of little shops, you will be disappointed.  If you came looking for a cool subculture, you will find something, but probably not exactly what you were looking for.  Either way, I still recommend visiting Akihabara.

The Akihabara series continues with Akihabara – For the Civilized and Akihabara – Redux.

Akihabara Information:

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihabara
Wikitravel:  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Akihabara
Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3003.html
Official Site (English): http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/index.htm
Official Site (Japanese):  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/ja/index.htm
Free Akihabara Tours:  http://akihabara-tour.com/en/
Akihabara Map:  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/map.htm
Commercial Site:  http://www.akiba.or.jp/english/index.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Civilized) April 20, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:   Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Civilized)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-n9

Akihabara Electric Town is a well known tourist spot in Tokyo.  Its claim to fame would have to be the electronics shops, comic book shops, and video game shops.  The area is best understood when you look at the station itself.  There are two major train lines that form a cross.  This is the starting point for almost every visitor to Akihabara.  Looking at the map, you can see that most of the shops are located to the north-west of the station.  The south-west corner is still a good place to visit, and the east has recently grown in popularity.  The main street, Chuo-dori, is sometimes closed to allow people to walk freely, and to reduce crowding, but due to an attack that killed several people, this may not be happening anymore.  Thankfully, this area is still relatively safe.  There is no need to really worry about getting injured or having your money stolen, but as with any place in the world, just be careful.

The east side of the station has only one point of interest, Yodobashi Camera.  This is a large electronics retailer that opened in 2005.  It is their largest single building shop with 7 floors of electronics goodness.  There is also a restaurant floor and a golf centre with its own driving range on top of the main electronics floors.  It is very easy to spend a full day in this shop, hence the caveat to be aware of time.  The main floor comprises mostly of mobile goods, such as mobile phones and netbooks.  For most people, heading up is your best bet.  If there is anything you ever wanted, this is the place to go.  They can do duty free for many items, but be aware, that as with most shops, you usually have to spend over 10,000 Yen in order to get a reduction in taxes.  People must also be aware that almost all products sold will be geared towards Japanese people.  Finding goods with English menus will be difficult, if not impossible for many items.  Warranties are also limited to Japan, but this shouldn’t discourage you from purchasing something.  You can always find good things here.  For those looking for a great deal on a new camera, or PC parts, you may be in for a sad surprise.  Prices are not cheaper here.  Yodobashi is a major electronics retailer, so they do not always provide the cheapest prices, and you can always visit one of the other branches or even the other shops to get a comparable price.

On the west side of the station, you will find the true heart of Akihabara.  This is where the original Electric Town was located.  Unfortunately, due to the arrival of Yodobashi Camera, things have changed.  Many, if not all, of the small shops that used to occupy the central Electric Town has left.  Under the railway tracks, the ones that head east and west have almost all left.  The area is also undergoing renovations to “modernize” the area and bring about a cleaner feel.  When I first arrived in Japan, I was able to walk through the tight cramped corridors under the station and buy almost any piece of electronic hardware I wanted.  Switches, lights, cables, batteries and anything that used a battery was sold.  The prices weren’t extremely cheap, but very reasonable.  You could walk into the area, spend 20 minutes shopping, and have everything you needed to build your own radio or more if you had the talent.  Today, we can only see shops such as Laox and Ishimaru.  They are the last famous electronics shops in the area.  If you do go to Akihabara, you can usually skip both Laox and Ishimaru as they generally have the same electronics.  However, if you enjoy manga and anime, these shops do have various character goods for sale.  You can also head to Radio Kaikan which is the main centre for anime goods.  All of these shops are located between the station and Chuo-dori.

The area located between Chuo-dori and Akihabara Station is a very safe place for tourists.  You don’t have to worry too much about speaking Japanese, and the staff is generally friendly.  As you head farther away from the station, further east and further north, you will find the shops will speak less and less English.  The area bounded by Chuo-dori, the JR tracks, and Suehirocho Station in the north, is a very interesting area where you can somewhat experience the old style of Akihabara.  The area near the JR tracks still has a foreigner friendly feel, but one block north will present you with shops that can sell almost anything.  If you are looking for PC parts, this is the area for you.  You can see all of the various peripherals that you could imagine, but do be aware that many of them can also be found around the world.  Then, you have Mandrake.  This is a big black building that can be easy to find if you know where to look.  It’s the only big black building in the area.  This is similar to the same shop that is located in Nakano.  They specialize in the second hand trade of anime and game goods.  You can find various old video games, anime characters, videos, and costumes.  It can be a little scary if you venture into the wrong floor.

With all of this information, you could spend an entire day shopping in Akihabara.  It’s a nice place, but everything mentioned so far is quite tame.  In my next post, I will talk about the eccentricities of Akihabara and a little about the changes that have been happening over the last few years.

The Akihabara series continues with Akihabara – For the Eccentric and Akihabara – Redux.

Akihabara Information:

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihabara
Wikitravel:  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Akihabara
Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3003.html
Official Site (English): http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/index.htm
Official Site (Japanese):  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/ja/index.htm
Free Akihabara Tours:  http://akihabara-tour.com/en/
Akihabara Map:  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/map.htm
Commercial Site:  http://www.akiba.or.jp/english/index.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Nippori) December 22, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Nippori)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-iQ

Nippori is an overlooked area of Tokyo.  Most people who do venture to this area will more than likely pass straight through it.  It can be considered a focal gateway to Saitama, a residential city to the north of Tokyo.  There really isn’t much for the regular tourist, but there area a couple of interesting things to see and do that could warrant a visit.  The first would be the Fabric Town, and the other would be the Yanaka Cemetery.  The other main reason to visit Nippori is to head to Narita Airport.  It’s a popular transfer point for those on the west side of Tokyo who want to save some money by taking the Keisei Skyliner instead of the Narita Express.

The first thing to do in Nippori, would depend on your purpose.  If you want to see the cemetery, I’d recommend heading there first.  It’s a large area with a long history.  If you head to the southern exit, you will be near the central entrance of the cemetery.  From here, it’s a short walk up the hill to reach Tennoji Temple.  This is a nice little temple with a seated Buddha inside.  It’s actually a bit of a surprise as the outside appears somewhat modern and inside is a quaint little Buddhist Temple.  It’s a nice place to go and relax for a few minutes, but the temple itself is pretty small.  From there, you can head straight into the centre of the cemetery.  The entire cemetery is lined with cherry trees.  It is very beautiful in the spring as the entire area is bathed in pink from the cherry blossoms.  In the autumn, it’s the same, but with colourful leaves.  Yanaka Cemetery is also one of the most famous cemeteries in Japan with various writers, poets, politicians, and scholars.

Fabric town is located on the opposite side of Nippori Station.  It’s a short walk from the station, and a little difficult to find.  Look around the main entrance of the station, where all the taxis park, and you’ll find a few signs pointing you in the general direction.  You have to walk past a major street before you enter Fabric Town.  While it is called Fabric Town, it’s more or less of a street.  There are very few shops located off the street that sell fabric, so don’t worry about venturing off the main street.  Here, if you love to buy fabric of any type, this is the place to be.  You can find various patterns, colours, thread, accessories, and so on.  The fabric can come in silk, polyester, cotton, and even leather.  If you love arts and crafts, enjoy sewing, or just looking for a good costume idea, this is a great place to get started.  Metres of fabric can start at 100 yen each.  Often, there are spools of fabric just sitting in bins in front of each shop inviting you to enter.  Once inside, you’ll have to decide what you want, how much you are willing to spend, and how to bring it home.  Husbands beware, if your wife loves sewing and crafts, you might want to drop her off and head over to Ueno for a little shopping, or even Akihabara to look at more electronics.

Other than that, there really isn’t much to see or do around the station.  There are a few shops to visit, some izakayas and restaurants, but other than that, it’s a pretty boring place.  The only interesting shop would be the Edwin store.  They have a large shop located in front of the station where you can buy all of their latest jeans.  Edwin is a Japanese jean maker whose headquarters are located at the end of Fabric Town.  It is akin to Evisu jeans, although Edwin is not as big, nor as popular as Evisu.  Either way, happy shopping.

Nippori Information:

Nippori (An article about an area that I barely visited in Nippori): http://www.nihonsun.com/2009/06/01/nippori-shopping-street-a-shotengai-worth-a-visit/
Nippori:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nippori_Station
Yanaka Cemetery:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yanaka_Cemetery
Fabric Town Blog Post:  http://www.askingfortrouble.org/crafts/2007/11/02/tokyo-shopping-guide-tomato/
Edwin Jeans:  http://www.edwin.co.jp/index.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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